At some point, you need to compare the contents of two files in Notepad++ but rather than switching tabs repeatedly to do the comparison is there any better way to compare two files in Notepad++? Yes, there is.
Notepad++ makes it easy to spot differences between files with handy comparison capabilities built right into the editor and if you want to go a little far there is a compare plugin in Notepad++ that provides highlighting features for comparison. In this guide, we’ll outline the process of How to Compare Two Files in Notepad++ side-by-side and understand the difference in highlighting.
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Notepad++ is a free and open-source text editor and source code editor for Windows. It is designed specifically for programmers and supports a wide range of programming languages and markup languages.
How to Compare Two Files in Notepad++?
Follow these simple steps to compare two files in Notepad++:
Step 1: In your Notepad++ App, click on the ‘Plugins‘ option in the menu bar and then select the ‘Plugins Admin’ option.
Step 2: Now in the Plugins Admin, search for ‘Compare’.
Step 3: Select the ‘Compare’ plugin and click on the install button in the top right corner.
Step 4: Click on Yes and Notepad++ will restart with the Compare plugin installed.
Step 5: Now, open any two files you want to compare, click on Plugins in the menu bar, select Compare from the list, and again Click on Compare from the sub-list.
That’s how you can compare two files in Notepad++. It was a simple 5-step process, which requires a Compare plugin installed in order to compare the files.
Here’s a Video Tutorial on YouTube of the same, in case you need more visual help:
When using the Compare plugin to compare two files in Notepad++, there are a few main symbols that can appear to highlight the differences. Let me break down those for you to get a better understanding:
- Green highlighted text – Indicates text that exists in the file on the right side but not on the left side. So green highlights show newly added or modified text.
- Red highlighted text – Indicates text that exists in the file on the left side but has been removed or modified in the file on the right side. So red highlights show deleted text.
- Blue highlighted text – Indicates a word case change between the two files. For example, a word being capitalized on one side but not the other. Lowercase vs UPPERCASE.
- Pink highlighted whitespace – Indicates a whitespace difference between the files, like changes in spacing or line breaks.
Additionally, some other symbols include:
- ↕ Symbol – Shows blocks of text that have been moved up or down relative to their position in the other file.
- ≈ Symbol – Appears on unchanged lines to help orient identical content between the files.
Compare two files in Notepad++ without Plugin
If you don’t want to compare two files in Notepad++ without a plugin, there’s a way to open the files side by side to see the changes. But it won’t have any features such as syntax highlighting etc, which were available in the Compare plugin.
Step 1: Open two files on your Notepad++ that you would like to compare.
Step 2: Now right-click on the file tab that you want to move to the side. Click on ‘Move Document‘ and then select the ‘Move to Other View’ option.
Step 3: Your file will be opened side by side and as you can see there is no highlighting feature to ease your comparing work.
Notepad++ makes inspecting config changes, documentation updates, and source control revisions quick and visual. We talked about two ways to compare two files in Notepad++: one is with a plugin, and another is without using a plugin. If you compare files in Notepad++ using the Compare plugin, you can enjoy the highlighting feature for a good visual understanding of your file updates.
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What file types can be compared in Notepad++?
You can compare any plain text-based formats like CODE, SQL, CSV, LOG, XML, JSON etc. Binary files like images or executables cannot be compared.
Is there a file size or line limit?
There are no inherent file size restrictions though extreme sizes like gigabyte log files may impact performance.
Can I compare files without opening in Notepad++ first?
Yes, use the Compare plugin icon dropdown to select the two files through standard Windows file open dialogs.
How are spaces and line endings handled?
By default, whitespace differences are highlighted. You can enable “Ignore whitespaces” option for cleaner diff view.
Can I customize the highlight colors?
Yes, you can change default highlight colors using Plugins > Compare > Settings.
Does file compare work across different file encodings?
Yes, it handles ANSI, UTF-8 and other encodings automatically even between mixed files.